Mets outfielder Jay Bruce started at first base Thursday for the first time since 2014, when he played just three games filling in for Joey Votto and the Reds.
In the wake of Lucas Duda needing to have an MRI on his hyperextended elbow, and with Wilmer Flores unavailable with an infection in his knee, Bruce handled first base, where he started one game and practiced during spring training.
"It went okay," Bruce said after the game. "What I found out is, fielding the ball is probably the easiest part of the whole thing. It's the nuances of the game that you can't really practice. …There's obviously things I can do better."
Apr 20, 2017; Jay Bruce (19) reacts after committing a throwing error. Credit: Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce made several routine plays during the the nine inning game Thursday, but was charged with an error during the second inning when throwing a ball between Noah Syndergaard and Neil Walker following a slow roller to his right.
As a result, Philadelphia scored their second run on route to a 6-4 victory.
"Noah's got to get over there," Collins said. "Jay made a nice play on it. And when he turned, he didn't think Noah could get there, so he tried to flip it to Walk and just got it too far in front of him."
I actually thought Bruce did a nice job fielding the ball during that botched moment during the second inning. He charged correctly, scooped it, turned his body right and ran the ball to first base just as he's supposed to and all while tracking Syndergaard, who was hustling from the mound to the bag with his glove open towards Bruce.
However, Neil Walker was doing the same as Syndergaard, coming from second base. It appears Walker confused Noah because he ended up getting to the bag first. And so, when the ball left Bruce's hand, which was correctly and accurately thrown at the base, despite no one being in position yet to catch it, neither Walker nor Syndergaard made a move for it and the ball cruised between them.
It was simply a miscommunication. I realize people are going to want to blame Bruce, because he's playing out of position handling first base in place of the injured Lucas Duda. But, interestingly enough, he technically did everything right in that moment. If he's to blame for anything, it's not being a regular first baseman having worked with Walker and Syndergaard over and over and over again to know how to handle the nuance of that specific moment. But, I mean, come on, it's a little unrealistic to expect him to have that level awareness given that he's played less than one percent of his career at the position. Again, technically he did the right thing. His only crime is not being a career first baseman, which is not his fault...
Apr 20, 2017; Jay Bruce (19) talks to Noah Syndergaard (34) during the seventh inning. Penner-USA TODAY Sports
I also see people blaming Syndergaard for hesitating off the mound before running to cover first. This is fair, I guess. But, he really had no choice but to wait because -- if Bruce decided to throw home -- Noah likely would've been pelted in the face with the ball.
The point is, this was simply one of those plays where everything converged at the wrong place at the wrong time. Bruce, Syndergaard and Walker all did what they're supposed to do. But, no matter how often these guys practice something like this in spring training, it's impossible to replicate each variable as it occurred last night. It happens. The only thing they can do is learn from it, be more aware and move on. It's just unfortunate that it ended up allowing a run to score in a game that was decided by two runs. But, all in all, I thought he did well enough to warrant continuing to play first base, which could be a nice fix to a complicated outfield...